The Color of Safety

Most of us encounter color cues on a daily basis without consciously recognizing that we are doing it. We stop at a red light, never slow down for the green light, we know that orange and white stripes means that there is road work ahead. We don’t stop and think ‘oh, the light’s red, what do I do?’ We proceed without thinking.

And, when it comes to safety in the industrial workplace, these visual cues should be just as second nature.

Colors and markings communicate important safety information to workers on a daily basis. But, we need to make sure that we are not proceeding without thinking, like we do in everyday life. We can’t let them become part of the background and just visual clutter that our brains block out. We need to make sure that we can stop and identify them as a safety cue.

The American National Standards Institute established rules to help define the use of colors to communicate safety information. This type of standardization helps workers easily recognize and understand what message that color is communicating.

Safety Colors and What They Are Saying:

RED: As with other items in everyday life, when it comes to safety talk, red says about the same thing…Stop!

  • Emergency stops and alarms
  • Fire protection equipment
  • Danger, high risk of severe injury or death
  • On a vehicle – Combustible or flammable

ORANGE: We are all used to seeing orange in the safety world. In an industrial setting, the orange talks volumes.

  • Hazard warnings
  • Moderate risk of injury
  • Guarding devices
  • On a vehicle – Explosives

BLUE: As a calming color, blue signifies that all is OK.

  • No immediate hazard
  • Notice of information

GREEN: Green in the industrial setting is generally a cue that information or resources can be found.

  •  Safety equipment or information
  • First aid equipment or location
  • On a vehicle – Non – flammable gas

YELLOW: Similar to red, yellow has always been a cue for caution. This is true in the safety world as well.

  • Caution statements
  • Minor risk of injury
  • Material-handling equipment
  • On a vehicle – Oxidizers

WHITE: White is often mixed with the more sinister black (or a combination of skull and crossbones)

  • On a vehicle – Poison or toxic

RED AND WHITE STRIPE: throughout safety, the stripe is a general safety warning. But not on a vehicle or container. Special color and stripe combinations identify hazards such as corrosives, reactive materials or biohazards.

  • On a vehicle: Flammable solid


We need to periodically reinforce the meaning and importance of colors and markings, and discuss how they can help protect people from harm. Although most of these color cues are second nature to workers, we need to make sure we can stop and recognize them as a safety cue.



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